Culture Pooped

When you're having fun, the red is all in the mind

"I'm the one that dances on the bar," she explained. Her role was an exclusive one, making her the "wild child" of the country-Western bar. "Other girls used to do it too, but then one fell."

Without my having to prompt her, she explained why she didn't work at the more famous country-Western counterpart. In this case, big cap restrictions would have hindered her professional opportunities.

"I wouldn't work at Coyote Ugly because it's too corporate," she explained. "You have to ring everything in. But that's not how you get the party started."

Yeah, a shot on the house always gets the good times rolling. As she spoke, she gestured energetically and shifted in her seat, like an antsy kid with ADHD. She assured me her bartending methods worked, and, of course, she had been named the Palm Beach Post's Best Bartender of 2005.

Her personality magnified her beauty sort of the way her glasses amplified the size of her eyes. She transcended the nerdy eyewear, which were necessitated by what she called "a clusterfuck of eye problems."

Were they an obstacle when it came to people pleasing? Not in her case. Jenna laughed. "People are like, 'Can you take them off for me?' and I'm like, 'Can you take off your pants for me?'"

There are some men I know who'd be confused and aroused by a remark like that. But I, for one, knew she was talking about vulnerability, not public nudity.

We were sidetracked by the arrival of another party — of the birthday sort — for Cuch (pronounced "cooch"), who was celebrating his 34th. I'd known the handsome hottie from the years he bartended at Dada on the same nights I hosted the poetry slam there. Jenna began introducing me around.

"This is Nick, the mayor of Delray," she said, explaining it was an unofficial position (not the official position, which is held by a guy named Jeff Perlman), a title they'd given him "because he knows everyone in Delray.

"And this is the mayor's assistant," she said, introducing another hottie with a faux hawk.

"I know Ramón from the days he had a mullet," I laughed referencing the time he and Cuch donned wigs to attend a Mötley Crüe and Poison concert.

The music had shifted from booty-shake tunes to such rock anthems as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Another One Bites the Dust." Despite the whole bottle of vodka that Cuch had ordered (attractively displayed on a white napkin with mixers and garnishes), the group ordered a dozen shots of tequila. The birthday boy passed them back to a collective "Woo!" and extended one to me.

"Uh-uh," I said shaking my head and laughing. "Y'all are gonna be drunk, so there's not gonna be anyone to hold my hair when I puke."

"Yeah, me either," said a guy with shortly shorn hair, setting his empty shot glass on the bar.

Jenna excused herself from the party, and a tough-looking guy took her seat. He introduced himself as Jason and told me a familiar tale about how he'd fled the frigid Northeast for Florida's enticing warmth.

"I was sitting in a cold car, hunched over, waiting for it to warm up, and I was like 'What am I doing?'" he said, relating how he'd reached that pivotal moment when he decided to leave for bluer skies and opened-toed shoes.

"In New York, I used to be the stereotypical Guido," Jason told me.

"You mean like the gold chains, Italian horn, all that?"

"I was mean, egotistical, greedy," he confessed.

The new atmosphere reflected in his improved disposition. He still had the tough-guy body, but he had softened. Besides, whoever heard of a thug in flip-flops?

As Matty did pull-ups on the bar's overhead rack, Jason's buddy Charles shared his own experience in the bike taxi business, which had given him mixed returns — great success in West Palm Beach and dismal disappointment in Delray.

"I got thrown out of Delray," Charles said with a look that was equal parts cynicism and disgust.

He explained that a drunk driver had hit one of his taxis, which prompted their expulsion from the city limits.

"Delray had no ordinance for or against them," he said. "They just put me out of business for no just cause."

Evidently, being friends with Nick, "The Mayor of Delray," wasn't much help here. I speculated that the bike taxis upset the delicate transportation ecosystem by eliminating the first line of defense against drunk drivers — the valets — which in turn cut into the automotive taxi business.

As Yogi Berra once so eloquently said: "Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked."

No wonder popularity is so exhausting.

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